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Getting Up, Close And Personal With Your Customers Through Emails


We never check our SPAM folders unless we have a really urgent mail that might land up there. Recently, it happened with me and as I fished through all the junk I realized why these emails landed there. They were all generic, non-targeted, sent through an email blast to a list of people about whom you know nothing. Absolutely nothing. They are just an email for you, not a person with that email address.

Check out these two examples here:

email personalization

Notice the sender’s email? Read further, and there was no mention of my name. Also, I never subscribed to these people. Anyway, let’s keep all this aside with a lesson that your sender’s email needs to be of a person, a real person, with a picture and a name. To me, that’s the first step to personalizing the emails sent to my subscribers.

Second is to use the receiver’s first name to address him. Now, most companies limit themselves to these two steps under the name of personalization. The story ends here for them. And so does the potential conversion.

Why is personalization in emails important?

Why your emails never truly exceed your expectations is because you never put in the effort and attention they require.They need to be not just contextual but personalized as well.

According to a survey, personalized emails sweep a CTR of 16%!!

So, write them out like a real person. Like a mail from a friend to another friend.

But you do not know the other person, and he is a virtual identity for you, so how will you start the conversation? Simple –

Step 1: Create a subscriber persona!

What would you do if you didn’t know this person?

Wouldn’t you ask questions and try to find some common ground? Why not implement that virtually too? Ask your subscribers questions like the following and engage with them:

What’s your age?

When’s your birthday?

What’s your gender?

Then, move on to interests, like if he chooses music, ask him if he’d prefer jazz, opera, hip-hop or rock. Find out more about his background. Does he work? If yes, which sector and which position? What are his religious beliefs and so on.

How to get this info? Well, Mailchimp called up their subscribers to create elaborate buyer personas and understand their drives and behavior.


However, do keep in mind that all data collection and email acquisition would go waste if the questions are out of context and fail to make sense to the customer.

A SaaS company could ask questions like these:

What pain points does our product solve for you?

What prompted you to sign up for our newsletter?

Would you like to see any new features in future updates of our product?

What holds you back from buying our solution?

While doing this research, make sure you don’t dig too deep. Keep the data focused on only the usable aspects of the product and better service delivery. Buyer personas need to be detailed enough to encourage conversions but not complicated to an extent that they leave you entangled in details.

Step 2: Segmenting email lists

Once the research is complete, focus on segmenting your lists and segregating people into various buckets based on their responses. Why is this important? Because it will help you personalize your emails in a more efficient way whilst keeping certain things superficial – like a perfect balance between professionalism and amiability.

Here are a few ways you can do this easily –

#1 Age

This is the first thing most marketers would start with.Why? Because this is what defines the kind of language you would be using in crafting your content copy and design elements.

Let’s start with a few age buckets, for example, and see how they impact buying decisions:

< 18 years: Cannot make a purchase themselves, but can influence purchase decisions.

18-25 years: College going and young adult who are focused on learning, freedom, independence, and development, so they will buy anything that lets them stand out, and splurge on sale.

26- 31 years: This is the age of career development, settling down and planning a family. Hence, most of their purchase decisions are focused on investment and saving.

32-40 years: This is the time when the kids are growing up into their teenage, and people falling in this bucket focus more on financial stability. Things are bought with a long-term perspective.

41-50 years: During this time, the children are all grown up and people find time to concentrate on their hobbies and interests.

51-65 years: These are the years of retirement from career and people’s focus shifts on travel and leisurely activities.

>65 years: Retired class individuals who want to enjoy life to the fullest while staying on budget.

#2 Career

Career and industry data are a must-have element of any email list as it will determine the extent to which an individual can choose to spend and is willing to spend. This also reveals a lot about their thought process, personality, values and way of living. For instance, there is a stark difference in the way entrepreneurs think from salaried people.

A person working in the IT sector would have a different approach towards life than a teacher or an artist. Comparing all three, an IT person would be more inclined to buy gadgets and things that make his life easier through automation. An artist would purchase by heart – if something speaks to his soul, he wouldn’t mind splurging on it. On the contrary, a teacher will be making much more ‘rational’ choices.

#3 Interest

Try to include a field of  ‘Primary interests’ in your opt-in form. Keeping it open ended text entry or a drop down menu with predefined categories is totally up to you. If your emails are interest specific, you can keep predefined field entries as this will automatically let you know the percentage of people interested in a certain category of products.

On the other hand, if you are going to go deeper with personalization, you can keep this field entry open-ended.

It actually varies with the industry. Retailers usually prefer the first option as it helps them send out email correspondence and discounts, predict ROI and see progress in a much more effective manner.

#4 Buying History

Every retailer keeps a record of the buying history of each subscriber and has a certain idea of the extent to which a subscriber can pay for a particular product, or his preferred categories where he makes the most purchases from and the ones from which he just wishlists or browses off. Similarly, the knowledge that the customer hasn’t yet bought anything from you, even after creating his account but is browsing through an array of products many times, can be of use.

This information can serve the retailers pitch the right product with the right amount of discount and persuade the subscriber to buy it.

Look at this example – one time order, but a large one


All you need to do is segment your lists using the following parameters:

1. Last purchase – category, product, price, time of purchase, path to purchase

2. Purchases prior to last one – favored categories, products, affordable price range, frequency of buying, days of the month when most purchases happened

Creating personas with psychography

Once you have all the above information, you are ready to create subscriber personas and give them some fictitious names and lives to make them seem more human. Overlap this persona with some creative thinking and you’ll get your buyers’ motivations.

As we have already identified earlier in our ‘Digital Body Language’ infographic, buyers, or rather visitors, of an ecommerce store have a certain persona and a buying pattern. While they spend time on the website browsing for their products, they give out hints of their buying intent and just what kind of shopper they are – hesitant, rational, spontaneous, maximizer, satisficer and so on.

This kind of dynamism in display and usage of content is actually very helpful in predicting whether the customer will buy at the end or not and how to make him buy, in case he leaves without making any purchase.

This is much like conversing with the customers in a language ‘they’ understand.

Using dynamic content

Now that you have emails that speak to your customers and ones that they understand, you can go deeper with behavioral segmentation through emails. This includes tracking every willful interaction the customer has had with your emails. For instance:

– those who do not open the emails you send

– those who do not open your emails and mark them spam

– those who open the emails and mark them spam

– those who open the email and delete them

– those who open emails but do not interact with it in any way

– those open and scan the email without any clicking

– those who open and read the email

– those who open, read it and click on the CTA

– those who open and unsubscribe from the email list

– those who open the email and buy from it

Using this information, you can gauge your subscriber’s interest in your products, offers, time of reading emails, time dedicated to reading your emails, and so on. They will be hyper-segmented lists that will help you target your subscribers in a much superior way.

Now, all you need to do is create email templates with certain dynamic fields.This will ensure that you stay professional (and efficient) while sending emails, as well as able to personalize them to a certain extent, an extent that is able to fetch more conversions.

Points to keep in mind

#1 Focus on the headline

If your product description and presentation is what sells your product, then the headline is the element that sells your email. I mean, it determines your open rate to a great extent.

Look at how Groove personalized their subject line by keeping one field dynamic.

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How to get this right?

1. Brainstorm three headlines with two variations of each.

2. Take a vote from your teammates on the three headlines. Exclude the content team from this activity.

3. The one which sweeps most votes, A/B test it on your subscriber list.

Will this take time?

Most definitely! But it will be worth the pain and wait.

Understand the fact that it is not about you.

#2 Provide value

This might feel harsh, but the truth is that people do not care about what you have to sell to them unless it adds value to their lives. So, in your email body, focus on crafting a copy that does justice to the product’s value (in the subscriber’s life), and not its price.

#3 Send emails at the right time/location

The key to getting conversions is pitching in your product to the right people, at the right time and on the right channel. So, let’s see what we have already got here – we have figured out our audience (through subscriber personas) and our channel (emails).

All that is left to handle is figuring out the right timing to land in their inboxes. Do so with the various tracking tools present at your disposal in any email automation system.

A word of caution here: Segmentation is not perfect. So, never ever skip A/B testing your email campaigns and its various elements.

Before we depart

If you can, then geotrack your emails too! Where were they opened and read? Why? Because this will make your emails even more personalized. If you shipped a product to a location different from their usual address, use it to your advantage. Call them and ask them how their trip was and if they’d like to get hold of nearby shopping options where they can redeem their online vouchers from your site.

Let’s say, the customer bought a seasonal ticket or coupon, send them a discount voucher for a movie show playing at that place. This is delighting your customers with cherries on the cake you just sold.

Who wouldn’t love you for that gesture and put in a good word about this with their friends? Imagine the free word-of-mouth and all the goodwill leads you’ll be receiving.

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